The biggest question for Jets fans now is how their eight draft picks are going to fit into the team.
This was the most picks the Jets have had since 2006, when they drafted 10 players. Among those 10 were D'Brickashaw Ferguson (No. 4 overall), Nick Mangold (No. 29), Eric Smith (No. 97), Brad Smith (No. 103) and Leon Washington (No. 117). That has amounted to three Pro Bowlers, a starter (Eric Smith—who shouldn't be starting, but is acceptable in the box when rotating with other players) and a major gadget player (Brad Smith).
Can the Jets duplicate that success with the 2012 class?
The reviews out of minicamp have been overwhelmingly positive for Quinton Coples, but there is still a long way to go for the 16th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. Coples was a surprise selection with Melvin Ingram and David DeCastro still on the board, but one that may pay very high dividends.
Coples is the type of player who can create major scheme diversity. With his ability to set the edge in the running game when playing end and his excellent interior pass rush, Coples provides the versatility to play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 when playing with seven-man fronts.
One thing I've been thinking about is Coples kicking inside on passing downs with Muhammad Wilkerson while Calvin Pace and Aaron Maybin (maybe even Ricky Sapp?) rush from the exterior.
While there is a lot that needs to happen to keep Coples motivated, his talent is undeniable. I've noted before that he reminds me of current Arizona Cardinals 3-4 DE Calais Campbell with his length and versatility—even his underachieving at UNC reminds me of Campbell at the University of Miami (Fla.).
In base 3-4 sets, Coples will likely start, but don't expect him to constantly play on first downs. Mike DeVito's restructured contract allows the Jets to keep him in 2012 and let him walk next offseason for an eventual compensatory selection. But in 2012, DeVito is a perfect candidate as a situational run-stopper to help bolster the Jets defense in an area that is usually outstanding, but often inconsistent on exterior runs.
This will help keep Coples' snap count down, limiting him to pass-rushing situations and working in tandem with DeVito. If project player Marcus Dixon can take the next step and become a better situational run defender, you could see the Jets able to get a ton of production out of their defensive line this season—if that's the case, it's going to seriously open things up for the Jets linebackers in the pass rush.
There are questions, but things are coming together for the Jets defense if Coples and Dixon answer the questions.
A fresh defensive line is one of the most dangerous weapons late in games. In 2009, a fresh defensive line gave the Jets one of the best pass rushes in football.
If there was one team that made total sense for Stephen Hill, it was the New York Jets. Though he wasn't my favorite prospect because of how raw he is, Hill has a skill set that perfectly translates to what the Jets are looking for.
Building confidence in a player's abilities is almost as important as teaching him the NFL game when transitioning from college to the NFL, and Hill will have the ability to contribute early in 2012. His role will be simple—run-block and run deep—much like at Georgia Tech.
If there's one thing where Hill stands out in translatable style of play, it's run-blocking. Playing in the triple-option offense at Georgia Tech required every receiver on the team to know how to run block.
Hill's biggest problem in transitioning to the NFL will be that he has an extremely limited route tree (more or less just a nine and a comeback) and that he won't have the misdirection of the triple-option offense to allow him to get as wide open as he did.
Or will he?
In the Wildcat package, Hill is an extremely dangerous player. With Tim Tebow lining up at quarterback and the threat of the run, corners will struggle to deal with Hill's explosiveness. One misstep and Hill will be long, long gone—his 10-yard split off the line is one of the best I've ever seen.
He has to develop into more than a one-trick pony, but the Jets' Wildcat package is going to make taking Hill out of games very difficult.
In the meantime, in the pro sets, his role will be to block, take the top off of defenses and every now and then to run something other than a nine route as the Jets sprinkle in his development.
The Jets gambled on Hill, but I think he can have an even bigger impact on games than Quinton Coples during the early portion of the season. Installing him as a starter in camp has shown that the Jets aren't going to mollycoddle him. I fully expect growing pains, but they won't always necessarily be noticeable because of what the threat of Hill as a decoy can do to a defense early in his career.
With this pick, like many of their picks, the Jets chose talent over polish. Now it's up to the coaching staff to polish.
There are two things that immediately jump out at you about Demario Davis on tape and I imagine that Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum fell in love with him for this reason. He's instinctual and outrageously athletic.
Davis changes direction very well, and he's a lean 235 pounds. He has the frame to add weight if the Jets expect him to become a prototypical 3-4 ILB, but perhaps a prototype is not what the Jets want.
They badly need to be able to find someone who can cover the mismatch tight ends in New England. Davis may not be able to take Gronkowski away, but Hernandez might be a lot more manageable for him.
That being said, Davis' role early in his career will be involved mostly on passing downs spelling Bart Scott. Scott is likely in his final year with the New York Jets. He's struggled greatly in coverage, though he's still a respectable run defender (granted it's a lot easier with Sione Pouha clogging the middle and tying up linemen).
Getting back to Davis' instincts, he's got the proper football instincts to succeed at any level and the killer instinct that any linebacker needs to be successful in a Rex Ryan defense. When he "smells blood," he gets even more aggressive. His instincts kick in and he seems to speed up approaching the ball-carrier. It makes him a highly effective pass-rusher on the inside.
There are a couple of reasons Davis fell to the third round. Among them, he played at a small school, Arkansas State. Does his game translate to the NFL or did he take advantage of sub-par competition? It's an almost unanswerable question that plagues NFL general managers on a yearly basis (Vlad Ducasse vs. Mike Iupati).
We'll soon find out, but early indications about Demario Davis are extremely positive. If the Jets wind up hitting on their first three picks, it could be a game changer.
Josh Bush was a very interesting selection for the Jets. He's a little small at 5'11'' and 208 pounds and not overly athletic based on his combine numbers. There's not a ton of tape on Bush available to the public, but from what I have seen, he is an acceptable man-coverage corner/safety hybrid who simply lacks the athleticism to stick at corner.
It's not necessarily his straight-line speed, but his change-of-direction ability that limits him. However, at Wake Forest, the redshirt senior Bush was a two-and-a-half-year starter who only intercepted one ball in his first three seasons.
His senior year? Six interceptions.
Though Wake Forest gave up on average almost 230 yards per game (69th in the NCAA) they allowed a very solid 6.7 YPA as a team (tied for 37th in the NCAA) and a completion percentage of 57.2 (tied for 36th with TCU). Though Bush may not be an overly gifted athlete, he does come as a player who can contribute on special teams and comes from a pedigree of a solid, if unspectacular passing defense.
Early in his career, expect him to contribute on special teams, possibly as a gunner, in nickel and dime roles as a corner, and as a rotational free safety in the 3-3-5. Don't be shocked if by late season he's getting significant playing time—maybe even starting.
The Jets don't have a better coverage safety on the roster (which is really, really sad), and they plan to start the year with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell as the safeties (I highly doubt that tandem sticks; Landry is not meant to be a long-term FS).
Josh Bush might be a late-round gem for the Jets, or at the very least, better then Eric Smith at free safety.
This was probably my least favorite pick the Jets made. Though I'm now used to the Jets drafting a running back virtually once a year, I wasn't a big fan of Ganaway and I also think he's a poor fit in New York.
One thing I do like about him is his range. He's not explosive, but he does hit the hole hard and gets much faster as he goes along. His initial burst isn't great though, and I find that he only really breaks arm tackles. He doesn't have the leg drive, in spite of his size, to break stronger tackles from better players.
He also seriously got a bump in his production thanks to RG3's breakout. Teams were so terrified of RG3's ability as a dual threat that Ganaway wasn't the focal point. It allowed Baylor to use RG3 as a decoy and opened things up for their running game.
In New York, Ganaway will have to use a lot more I-Form running if he wants to really get playing time. Consider that he's already behind Greene and McKnight, and maybe Bilal Powell, and it seems unlikely that he's going to be exclusively used in the Wildcat when all three of those players can do that job as well.
Ganaway does have abilities as a pass-catcher and a blocker (though he could use refinement in both areas) and the versatility to play fullback. Ganaway has surprising agility and change-of-direction ability for such a big back (6'0'', 239 pounds).
It's not a terrible pick, but I don't think Ganaway will wind up being a big contributor anytime soon.
Of the first five picks, Ganaway has the worst shot at cracking the 53, and if he does, will likely be a game-day inactive. That being said, I don't think the Jets would risk putting Ganaway on the practice squad.
Robert T. Griffin is a large, large man. At 6'6'', 336 pounds, he has the prototypical size for an NFL lineman, but lacks the prerequisite athleticism and maybe even the strength to be an effective run-blocker. It wouldn't hurt if he dropped 10 to 15 pounds to really be able to compete for a roster spot.
With the Jets' offensive line troubles, Griffin could see some playing time, but his first step has to be able to crack the 53-man roster.
He's a project and a much better pass-blocker than run-blocker. While it seems unlikely he cracks the 53-man roster (a likely game-day inactive if he does), the Jets have lacked offensive line depth for a while.
When the line is fully healthy, they carried just seven offensive linemen last season. After picking up Howard, they carried eight. With Ducasse and Austin Howard likely locked in as the sixth and seventh linemen, I expect Griffin to battle for that eighth spot—if the Jets carry it.
Don't expect an early contribution from Griffin.
A history of concussions and a hybrid safety/linebacker position at South Carolina that doesn't really exist in the NFL (outside of LaRon Landry, interestingly enough) knocked Allen all the way to the seventh round, but this is a player I fully expect to make the roster.
Allen has nice change-of-direction ability, is a solid tackler and has great size at 6'2'' and 210 pounds. He badly needs to improve his zone-coverage skills—he sometimes takes the wrong depth and it leads to easy receptions that he could have avoided.
Still, as an in-the-box safety on a team deprived of talented safeties, he has a great shot at not just making the team, but getting real playing time.
The Jets started the year with 10 defensive backs (six corners, four safeties) and by the end of the year had 11 (seven corners, four safeties). With health concerns on Landry and overall concerns about Yeremiah Bell and pure lack of depth, Allen could easily make the final roster.
While it's unlikely he starts unless Bell and Landry are both hurt (or ineffective), he could carve out a nice role for himself near the line of scrimmage and may be athletic enough to guard tight ends.
Don't sleep on Antonio Allen.
He doesn't have great deep speed, but White was insanely productive in college. He finished his senior year at Western Michigan with 140 catches for 1,911 yards and 17 touchdowns in 13 games.
White has good short-area quickness and the explosiveness off the line to be a stand-up slot receiver. At 6'0'' and 208 pounds, White fell due to durability concerns, style of offense and domination of smaller schools in the FBS.
But you know what? In four games against Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut and Purdue (bowl game), White had 51 catches for 689 yards (13.5 YPC) and four touchdowns.
He has good balance (though not as much downfield) and adjusts well for balls. A lot of players draw comparisons to Wes Welker (Jordan Shipley was, in my opinion, the funniest one), but Jordan White and Welker certainly have some similarities.
White may struggle downfield, but in between the numbers he's more than willing—he's courageous. Maybe he even can draw some comparisons as a bigger Wayne Chrebet (or perhaps a braver Joe Horn?).
I think White is going to make the roster, and he may even surpass Jeremy Kerley at some point on the depth chart. He's great at finding the soft spots in zones. He can be a security blanket, though his production will be hampered until Mark Sanchez improves his accuracy on timing patterns.
The Jets started the season with five receivers and ended the season with four. I'm thinking they wind up keeping six. His main competition for a roster spot will be Scotty McKnight and Patrick Turner, though I am guessing that Turner is going to struggle to make the roster with two very similar and much more gifted players in Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens much more likely to win a roster spot.
If the Jets keep six receivers, I'm guessing McKnight or White make the roster—otherwise, it's hoping they don't get poached off of waivers before signing on the practice squad.
Above: Linebacker Marcus Dowtin
G.J. Kinne, Tulsa
Matt Simms, Tennessee
Kinne is a thick 6'2'', 234 pounder with a live arm and good ability to throw on the run. He has a great story and a close relationship with Chad Pennington. Kinne comes from a spread-option offense and is likely ticketed for a spot on the practice squad.
Simms was a transfer from Louisville who went to junior college and eventually wound up at Tennessee. Simms struggled in limited action, but does a good job taking care of the ball (five interceptions in 195 attempts in 2010, his only year starting) and has a good arm, but stares down his receivers and doesn't always properly read defenses.
Simms is a training camp arm with an outside shot at making the practice squad.
Brian Linthicum, Michigan State
The 6'5'', 245-pound Linthicum has shown some ability as a receiver with 31 grabs his senior year. He doesn't have great separation ability, and I don't expect him to beat out either Jeff Cumberland or Hayden Smith for a roster spot/practice squad spot.
His best shot is to show he's a more able blocker then either Cumberland or Hayden.
John Cullen, Utah
Anthony Parker, Western Michigan
Cullen is an athletic lineman who played tackle and guard at Utah, but is still a long shot to make the final roster. He's likely ticketed for a spot on the practice squad, as he puts on a little weight at 6'4'' and 297 pounds.
Watch out for him down the road. He has plenty of experience and NFL athleticism, just not the size or strength for anything other then zone-blocking. The Jets are unlikely to carry more than eight linemen, and I don't think he'll beat out Robert T. Griffin or Dennis Landolt.
Parker was a 48-game starter who was a solid run-blocker against average competition, Parker is 6'4'', 318 pounds and lacks athleticism. Don't expect him to make the roster; I'd be shocked if he was on the practice squad.
Brett Roy, Nevada
Damon Harrison, William Penn
Donovan Robinson, Jackson State
Brett Roy is an undersized five-tech who may have to move to linebacker (or simply put on weight). He's strong and stout, but raw.
Harrison is a giant nose tackle listed approximately at 6'4'' and 350 pounds. He is facing stiff competition at the NT position from Pouha, Kenrick Ellis and Martin Teveseau. He's a practice squad candidate.
Robinson is a seriously undersized rusher but has quite a bit of speed. He's a project player with some upside thanks to his athleticism. Look for him to safely make the practice squad if he looks good in the preseason.
Marcus Dowtin, North Alabama
A former Georgia transfer, Dowtin is a legit athlete with good football instincts. At 6'2'' and 226 pounds, he needs to add some weight. He went undrafted due to character issues and may very well crack the Jets' 53-man roster as a special teamer early in his career.
If not, he's probably the strongest practice squad candidate currently on the roster.
Ryan Steed, Furman
D'Anton Lynn, Penn State
Donnie Fletcher, Boston College
Surprisingly, all three of these players went undrafted. Steed is a long, athletic corner who is very raw but very physical. Lynn is a good zone corner (maybe a safety) whose father coaches the running backs and is a great practice squad candidate. Fletcher is another big corner who could use some refinement in his game.
Don't be shocked if one of these three players makes the 53-man roster. Steed is probably the most physically gifted, but Fletcher moves very well for his size.
It wouldn't shock me if all three make the practice squad, but I'm still banking on one of them getting a roster spot.
Brody McKnight, Montana
The former kicker and punter McKnight has a solid leg, but inconsistent accuracy, though he greatly improved in his junior and senior year. He is just a camp leg—unlikely to beat out both Nick Folk and Josh Brown.
Projected to Make Final 53
LB Marcus Dowtin, North Alabama
DB Ryan Steed, Furman
Projected Practice Squad
QB G.J. Kinne
WR Scotty McKnight (non-rookie)
OL Matt Kroul (non-rookie)
OL Dennis Landolt (non-rookie)
DL Brett Roy
CB D'Anton Lynn
CB Donnie Fletcher
S Tracy Wilson (non-rookie)